[Day 2 is always the most fun – you’re getting into the groove, there’s heaps to look forward to, and the first days talks have left you salivating for more – and today more is on offer! And for those reading, don’t forget to check out the bookstall – heaps of books left, especially the biographies (which are phenomenally great ways to start your 2018!).]
Day 2 | Morning Session | Derek Hanna: Being Human [Genesis 2]
What does it mean to be human?
Peter Singer – an Australian philosopher – “Sanctity of Life or Quality of Life” Pediatrics 72, no. 1 (July 1983)
“Whatever the future holds, it is likely to prove impossible to restore in full the sanctity-of-life view. The philosophical foundations of this view have been knocked asunder. We can no longer base our ethics on the idea that human beings are a special form of creation made in the image of God, singled out from all other animals, and along possessing an immortal soul. Our better understanding of our own nature has bridged the gulf that was once thought to lie between ourselves and other species, so why should we believe that the mere fact that a being is a member of the species Homo Sapiens endows its life with some unique, almost infinite value?” p128-129.
One could probably tell that Peter Singer is not a Christian. Singer’s philosophy leads us to see that no life is more special than any other – so to take the life of a lamb is as great a crime as taking the life of a human.
No matter what your views of God there’s something about Singer’s quote that just doesn’t sit right. When Praying Mantis’ mate the female eats their mate afterwards – sometimes beforehand. How does that work?! We giggle at the thought… but if a human did that we would not be laughing.
Derek’s dog got cancer… and they opted to put him down. But if a human gets cancer… would we ‘put them down’? No. We know that there’s a qualitative difference between a dog and a human life.
In the Western World where secularism has created a vacuum, areas of life where God has been entirely removed, we are struggling to fill the gap left by God. How we function as a society, how we form right and wrong decisions – it’s a big wrestle. Our generation is more informed, more connected, more interconnected, and more confused and challenged in knowing how to deal with our world and it’s secular outlook. And these things bear down on our identity, our sense of worth, our place in this world, how we justify our experience, what it looks like to be normal and what it looks like to be human. It’s unprecedented.
And into this confused mess speaks Genesis 2.
Humanity: Created with a difference (1:26-27)
In Genesis 1 everything is created external to God – it’s out there, distinct from God. But with humans, you have something different. God has created humans now in his image.
But there’s a problem. What does it mean to be created in the image of God? It’s a big debated point. And while it appears to be a key part of who we are it’s not defined immediately. Another use of the phrase appears in Genesis 9 – if the blood of a human is spilt that’s a crime because they are made in the image of God. So even after the fall of Genesis 3 mankind is still in the image of God. Another function of image bearing is to rule – set apart from creation. The ‘image’ is applied to Jesus also – Colossians 1:15 Jesus is the image of the invisible God. 2 Cor 4:4 Jesus again is referred to as the image of God. The New Testament again picks up on this – those in Christ, Col 3:10, are being renewed in the image of their creator.
So while the image of Genesis 1-2 still exists in humanity it needs to be fixed.
Three implications from this arise:
1. We are spiritual
We are people created to be in a relationship with God – which is fundamental to who we are, and the first thing of significance for who we are. God forms Adam from the elements of creation, and then uses his own breath to give him life. The same breath that created the universe – the stars, the solar system, the earth, the land, the water – that same breath now animates man. And he takes that man, creates a place of perfection and richness and abundance, and places mankind into it – and says, ‘It’s yours! And they are to live with God as their King – in relationship with him. And if that does not exist then something is fundamentally broken.
2. We are material
This land that Adam and Eve are put into is pleasing, they are supposed to enjoy it. They are given the task of naming things – which is a massive authority. God outsources his own authority to this man. To name something is to have ownership over it. When parents have a child they spend a lot of time naming them. When we forget someone’s name constantly that’s offensive. A name is an invitation to relationship. Dog breeders don’t name their puppies in order to not get attached. God gives authority to mankind to exercise this power over creation – to name, to rule.
And not to rule in a way that exploits – but to rule in a way that reflects God’s goodness. They are to ‘work and keep’ the Garden – to do what God does in pushing the boundaries of the Garden out and bring order over the chaos of this world. This is God’s world, we are to care for it, we are stewards of it. It is his good world. So the lack of care, to turn a blind eye to its destruction – is sub-human. Creation is not there for us to exploit but to tend.
That said, we do not worship creation itself. It is not the ultimate good, not on par with mankind. The idea that it should be preserved completely intact for the future – not changed, or cut down in anyway – goes too far. On the one hand we don’t exploit creation, but we also don’t leave it and not touch it. We are to steward it appropriately for the present and the future.
Note – the Fall changes how we do that, but Genesis 2 sets these parameters in place.
3. We are relational
Everything in creation so far is good – but then something happens in the creation order that is ‘not good’. The loneliness of man. Genesis 2:18-20 – Man takes on his role, but notices his loneliness. It’s not good for Adam to have no one equal to relate to, a complementary partner. Pets are great, but we are wired to connect emotionally with humans.
The point: being in the image of God is not about being married, nor is it saying that when you’re married you image God better. And while 2:24 is about marriage, the point of Eve’s creation is a reminder that humans are created to be in relationship with others.
Notice back in 1:26 that there is a plural ‘we’ used. Some have argued it is a royal ‘we’ – God is consulting his angels or another part of his creation in this moment. But that seems odd – God doesn’t do that much. We know from the rest of scripture that God is a triune God – his very nature is relational. We see within the Godhead love, relationship, submission, roles, creativity, delight – he is in perfect relationship within himself, he does not need us.
Notice also in 1:27 the parallels in this verse – ‘created’ appears three times in parallel. Image is paralleled in the second part with ‘image’ as well – but then in the third line the parallel is ‘male and female’. ‘Image’ is complementary relationship.
Humanity’s end goal – Revelation 7:9ff – is of a people who are connected, and in relationship, and bowing before God. That’s the end goal. But for now we are in Ephesians 4:11-24 – we are given to one another to build each other up, to help each other take off the old self and put on the new self. We are not saved into individuality, we are saved into the people of God. So when we hear people say, ‘I can be a Chrisitan and not go to church’ we want to push back strongly (and lovingly and gently) because it is incompatible with what God says. We were not meant to be lone rangers, it is not in our wiring.
Reflections for us…
Now here’s the kicker. When our world jettisons God but appears to flourish the temptation will be to change ourselves to be more like them. But look at our world with right eyes: the destruction of our world, and while wealth increases generationally we also see more addiction, more things made to grow our addictions, more family breakdown, more hurt people. Why? Because they have disconnected themselves from all goodness and forgotten what it means to be human. They are searching and searching for that thing that will make their brokenness whole.
We need to be going to this world with the great news that to be truly human is to be in relationship with God through Jesus Christ. To look at Jesus: the perfect man – the one who walked on water, who loved his friends, who loved his enemies that he was willing to lay down his life for them. We need to say ‘this is the One you need to be looking for’. Our communities need to exist not just for ourselves – we must not look inside so much, but also outside.
Our message: Be reconciled to God.
[Great start! Pact with insight into Genesis 2, and a massive exhortation to not fall in love with our world – to see it rightly, and to call out to it the great news that Jesus offers what everyone is really and earnestly seeking for.]
Evening Session | Peter Jensen: Who Am I? [Hebrews 2:5-18]
Who you were designed to be
For those who declared ‘God is dead’ were often seen in the Marxist movement. Marxists were not satisfied with simple godless living. They wanted to restructure human life.
Joseph Stalin – ‘Artists and writers are ‘engineers of the human soul’ to train human beings in a more socialistic way. It was always the aim of the Bolsheviks to train the human mind and to create a new type of human being.’
Communism engineered the whole of life. Even architecture – so that people would live in communal groups, sharing everything (even underwear).
Elizabeth Farrelly – ‘Modernism didn’t just promise a new world order it also promised a new human being to inhabit it… the New Jerusalem.’
An interesting reference there to Jerusalem, which is a biblical idea, and here were worldly ideas of communism taking this biblical picture and wanting to import it into this world presently.
Malcolm Turnbull – ‘The old regime of telling people how to live their lives, be you a government or a churchman, is running out of time. Australians want to be free. They want to have independence. They want to have choice… Now there are some people who distrust human nature and believe that people won’t make the right decisions and that others should make them for them. We err on the side of respecting individual judgement and respecting individual choices.’
- Thoughts: There’s a very high view of humanity and individualism here (perhaps too high), entrusting humans to make choices for themselves
Peter makes the note that Turnbull’s quote is often assumed as correct in our culture – but is it correct? Is lack of freedom having other people telling you what you should or shouldn’t do? Turnbull’s insight is that he notes the quest for freedom is one of the great pillars of faith for our world. Freedom is choice.
Or is it? Is freedom just about choice?
Turnbull however stumbles on one major point – he ‘trusts’ human nature. But we all distrust each other – which is why we use keys and locks and have fences and gates.
Take this to a more profound degree – voluntary euthanasia. Do we trust each other to help each other make the right choices in this matter? We shouldn’t.
From a Christian point of view Turnbull’s statement is deeply lacking.
Stalin and Trotsky tried to remake human nature. Turnbull thinks we already have a good human nature – so you can pass laws that allow people to make their own choices.
Another question: what is freedom? Is it to be free from external constraint, or the ability to make choices?
The modern world is besotted with freedom, proclaiming it’s gospel of the goodness of human beings. Having abandoned God, we have turned ourselves into little gods.
In our postmodern world the saying is: ‘The reader is the author.’ If the author is the interpreter then they have power over you. But you must remain autonomous, you must remain self-governing – so it’s better that you are the author. It’s your reading of the world that makes the world. Is this freedom?
In the sexual revolution from the 1960’s this experiment was played out. You had freedom in choosing all your sexual partners. Sex was pleasure, power and identity. Today that trajectory has led us to the point that you can now choose your own gender. And what has been the result of this freedom? STD’s on the rise, cohabitation on the rise leading to more divorces, lots of sexual partners leading to damaging your persona.
Yet when we go back to the Genesis 2 picture we have Adam in perfect freedom – he lives within guardrails of God’s commands and living as God designed him to be. We open with a picture of a Kingdom – God’s people living in God’s place living under his Rule and Command. Our identity is therefore found in our relationship with God and our relationship with each other. This is how we discover who we are. To break away from that and demand our freedom leads to the catastrophic question about your identity. And that’s what we see in our world today.
Who you are in fact
In Hebrews 2 we have a quote from Psalm 8. Humanity is created crowned with glory with everything under his feet. The creator of culture as we take the materials of this world and reshape them under God’s guidance and rule.
But as we keep reading the quote and how the author uses it we realise that this quote is not about us humans today. We are not seeing ‘everything in subjection’ to us human beings (v8).
The author of Hebrews also notes that, in our observation today, we are kidding ourselves with the belief that we are free. He notes that there is one who has power over us – the devil, and death (v14-15). Death is to be feared, it is the great power over us and after death comes judgement – and this should be sobering for all to hear. The evil one uses the fear of death to bring us into slavery. And at the heart of this is sin. v17 highlights this as well.
The biblical picture of humanity is of sinful humanity. Rebellious against the Kingdom of God – his right to rule our lives. We have been proud, arrogant, and decided that we will be gods. And consequently, we have corrupted ourselves. Our sinfulness is not that we make bad decisions every now and then, it is a deep heart condition in which we rebel against God. Fundamentally we don’t make bad desires we have bad desires. It’s not that you have free will, but that your will is so corrupted that it constantly makes wrong choices.
In order to understand ourselves and our world we must understand the depth of our human depravity. It doesn’t meant that you’re totally bad, but it does mean that every part of your is corrupted. You cannot climb out of this pit with your own strength.
The great hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ was written by John Newton. He was a slave trader, a wicked man. And when he was saved he concluded at the end of his life, ‘I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great saviour.’ This is the confession of every true Christian.
Who has been a real man
So what is the solution? V8ff – the one who has been a real man. Jesus!
He suffered death, but he is crowned with glory and honour. It was our crown, and now he has it – because of the very thing he did for us: he suffered death so that by the grace of God he might taste death on our behalf. So now we no longer need to be afraid of death and in the grip of Satan.
Now note – Jesus did this as a man. The Son of God, a person of the divine Trinity, took upon himself human nature and became like one of us. He suffered and died and was resurrected – not because he was God but because he was a man.
Jesus was one of us, and he will now always be. In his humility he took upon what we are so that we might become what he is. (!!!!!)
God said he has put man in charge of all things and he has – Jesus is that man. And we are in him. We receive a crown because Jesus received a crown.
v17 – Jesus was made like us, so that he could be the high priest in the service of God, to turn away the wrath of God that was upon us. Through his sin-bearing death, he bore the sin of the world – and in doing that he propitiated the wrath of God. And from that we become freed from death and condemnation – no longer condemned, no longer fearing death, no longer under the bondage of sin and Satan. That is freedom. Release to become what we were meant to be.
Who gives us our humanity
v11 – We who believe in all of this are described as Jesus’ brothers. He bore our sins so that we could have the freedom we all long for. And in this he helps us become who we are meant to be, he helps us grow up. He helps us change from one degree of glory to another until we become like Christ.
Is that what you want? If you don’t want that then you don’t understand the gospel.
Our business then in life is service in worship of God. Worship is not just what happens on Sunday as we’re singing. Worship is our whole of life – with every fibre of our being. We worship God when we put our trust in God and in obedience. Worship is evangelism. Worship is faithfulness so that we will not cheat on our taxes – even for our employer.
So who am I? Your identity is a gift. You dont’ make it up for yourself. In our modern world people are trying ot make up their own identity and it is a catastrophe emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Identity is not found in what our parents gave us either. Ultimately whether you have been failed or squandered what you’ve been given – your real identity can only come as a gift from God. And it is only when you learn by putting yourself under God’s Kingdom and rule – to turn to him in repentance and faith – will you find your identity as a son and daughter of the living God, and that you are in Christ forever and ever. That’s who you were designed to be. That’s who you are. I am a great sinner, but Christ is a great saviour.
[So very amen!!
Day 2 is over and done with. Peter is on fire. If you haven’t made it yet please come! And come early – last night we packed in 250, tonight I can easily say we’re up to +300! Come early, check out the bookstall, grab an early seat, and enjoy the wisdom of a great sinner saint in Peter Jensen :)]